You are not your job

“What do you do?”

“I am an occasional DJ.”

“Like every night? Or like only some nights?”

“Only some. Like when I feel like hitting the club scene, otherwise at my friends’ parties. It’s great. It’s a lot of fun.”

“Oh right! That’s cool. But it’s not like, part of your career.”

“Haha no, I really like it though. I don’t get much money out of it but I love seeing people enjoying the music.”

“So what else do you do?”

“I run a hiking group. It’s a great way to exercise and meet new people as well. Takes up most of my weekends and it’s exhausting, but rewarding.”

“Only on weekends?”

“Yeah.”

“So what do you do though?”

“Do?”

“On weekdays, like during the week. I mean what is your job?”

“Oh. Right.” (Pause) “I am a teller at the local bank.”

Does this conversation sound familiar? Or do you automatically answer the question “What do you do?” with your role at your current company?

Why does the question “What do you do?” translate to “What is your day job?”

You are not your job. We should not be defined by our jobs, even if – like me – you really love your job.

Not everyone enjoys their job. Even people who do, don’t always want to talk about it.

We are allowed to have passions outside of work. We should not be ashamed of them or have closet hobbies because they don’t line up with the seriousness of our day jobs.

We should stop asking people what they do.

We should stop starting conversations with new people by asking what they do.

Instead, we should ask people what they like to do. What music they’re into right now. A place they enjoy going to for a good meal. What they splurged their money on last. Somewhere new they visited recently. A good book they might be able to recommend.

Because being a part-time DJ and organising a hiking group on weekends produces far more interesting stories, and displays a thousand times more passion and dedication, than one makes being a teller at the local bank.

Likewise, for me, maintaining a blog, going to music concerts and going to the gym can be more interesting than talking about work – even though I love my job.

If you want to talk about your job, then that’s fine, go ahead!

But you are not just your job.

Let’s remove the link between how we make a living and what we really do.

So, what do you do?

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Comments on this post

If someone asks me what I do I respond with my job title, usually because I’m pretty proud to tell people I’m a web developer, and 9 times out of 10 I get a look of shock (probably because I’m a woman 🙄) which amuses me. But I think it’s almost like an automatic response to tell people what our job is.

But you’re right. We are not our jobs and and our jobs don’t have to define us. Work is just apart of lives.

One of my favourite podcasts is The Lively Show by Jess Lively and there’s an episode that talks about this very topic. It’s all about work and worth. She talks about how she says “I have a podcast” rather than “I am a podcaster” when someone asks her what she does because this way her job doesn’t define her.

She also talks about how people in Europe don’t tend to ask this question but personally I don’t think this applies to the UK because we’re all nosy folk!

I ♥️ this. I have definitely been in the situation where people ask me what my job is and I tell them I work in retail and feel like they're always internally judging me. Almost as if it's like, "that's ALL you're doing?"

I agree that the most interesting or the more interesting conversations are when you ask people what they like to do (outside of work) and what makes them excited. And if that something has to do with your job then great! But if not, that's cool too.

This is a pretty good insight. I never pondered upon this until now. I agree that it’s better to talk about what we like to do rather than what our day job is. Conversations would indeed be colorful and worthwhile if we actually talked about what we’re passionate about. Those who start conversations asking about each other’s occupation may have assumed that our day job could be our passion at the same time, but it isn’t really always the case, and they should realize that.

I like my job, but yes, I also have so many things I enjoy doing that make me, me. Being a blogger, a reader, an-all-around-crafter…the list just continues. There are so many things that make up me. But I was very happy when I discovered something as my career. I didn’t think I would find anything but in the end, it does not define me.
Here’s to finding whatever makes us happy. ♥️

*high five* This is a great post. I feel it is far more important to understand the things that people like to do, rather than what they do as a job. Sometimes these do interesect and you have someone who is working in a field that emcompasses what they like. Which is brilliant. It doesn’t happen all the time though, so you can’t judge someone or expect to know a lot about them, simply by their ‘job’.

I like to do a range of creative things. 😄

I don’t know…. I have to play devil’s advocate on this one. Hobbies are pretty tough conversational pieces unless you’re talking to people withe the same interest. I have absolutely zero desire to talk about either hiking or DJing. The idea of having to talk about mountain trails makes me imagine slowly backing away from someone and finding literally anyone else to talk to. (Same with DJing. Or running marathons. Or building models. Or stamp collecting. Or like a hundred other hobbies I don’t have because I find them ridiculous/boring/etc.) Hobbies require a mutual interest to make them an interesting conversation beyond a basic “cool” response. Jobs, on the other hand, are pretty easy because no matter what someone’s job is there’s usually some sort of follow up question or comment. “Oh my aunt does that” or “at which store?” or “have you ever defended a murderer?” or “oh God, I could not do that every day.”

I have to admit that when people ask what I do, I automatically assume they mean my day job. For me, I don’t mind because I like my job, and I also like talking about my job. I agree that your job doesn’t necessarily define you though and that there are more interesting things to ask about and relate to! My hobbies are definitely more interesting to me, and if I find someone who has similar ones, it’s really exciting. I think most people remember me more for my hobbies than my job anyway 🙂

By default, my answer to this question used to be that I am a student till last december, but now suddenly my answer gets conflicted between being an intern and a college student… so I give the answer as per the situation, sometimes student, sometimes intern, some times a web UI developer, or sometimes even a blogger!

My automatic reaction is “I work in finance, it’s not very exciting…” I work in purchase ledger, so my job is basically paying the companies bills. But the rush of thrill I get when I’ve worked through a problem account, unpicked threads of misallocated payments and reconciled an account… I really enjoy it. But I automatically just go “eh, it’s kinda boring” because that’s what people expect when they hear ‘finance’

I automatically answer the questions with “I work at a call centre” because at the moment that is what I do. I feel like if I say I’m a blogger, people won’t get that either, and recently I’ve launched into freelance writing, which I guess I can start approaching if people ask me what I do.

I definitely agree it should be “What do you like to do?” rather than “What do you do?” because that question is hella boring. I hate the fact that I work in a call centre, and it’s nothing something I’d rather talk about tbh.

I’m Chynna, I’m a blogger and freelance writer who goes around London eating all of the food and reading all of the books. Nice to meet you.

That’s very true! Sadly most people do this. I know even I do!

But we really should focus more on who we are as actual people instead of what brings in our money!

I love this. Especially as a person who works two jobs and doesn’t really care for one them.

I think the reason why people automatically ask about another person’s job in a conversation is because they just haven’t thought about what else could be asked.

I’ll definitely take care to not focus on other people’s jobs when I strike conversations with them.

I’m all for getting to know people better. I love it when I talk to my co-workers and we discover mutual interests, especially when it’s something as geeky as video games 😆 But yes, I very well know I am not my job, but in a way, my job represents my strengths of being organised and handling tasks like a pro, haha! Well, sort of. But I know my job isn’t just me. What makes me who I am is more than just my job.

Funnily enough, I don’t really go into much details on what I do because of where I work. I don’t want to advertise too much and attract unwanted attentions. So my answers are usually vague with people who do not know me well . . .

I don’t mind talking about work with co-workers, though, because it helps figure out stuff if there are issues, and I can also vent with them! But if we can talk about other stuff outside of work, that’s even better for me 🙂

I notice a lot of convos with new people spark with asking about their career. I can imagine it being awkward if the person isn’t employed.

“Oh, I’m not working right now but I’m looking.”
“I’m a full-time student.”

This type of question doesn’t always yield *good* results. Some people might not be as passionate about their job and it definitely doesn’t define them. The appeal in asking what the person enjoys doing is greater (as long as the person asking is open-minded). People like to ask about the professional aspect but there’s more to knowing people than that. There is more flexibility with steering the direction of the conversation through personal interests.

I suppose the only obstacle I might have with that is when someone enjoys something I have no knowledge about. Eg: talking about soccer/hockey. I guess I can ask about whether they’re involved with it personally and where their favorite team is located (because saying the team name alone would confuse me).

But yes, {what are your passions}?

What really confuses me is the question itself, “What do you do?” (“Che fai nella vita?” in Italian).

Because I always respond: “Oh, I do plenty of things!” 😆 I do plenty of things, which include my job as a freelance writer and artist, but those are not the only things I do.

“What’s your job?” or “What do you do for a living?” are better questions, I feel; they don’t define the other person. I find nothing wrong in asking what someone’s job is, as long as it doesn’t become a reason to judge the other person as a human being (you know, stereotypes and the like). If someone doesn’t like their job, I generally ask about their hobbies, or if there is a career path they’d really love to take to replace the current one they dislike. That often gave life to interesting and deep conversations, and we learned more about each other.

Lu

I love this post so much! ♥️ Being a student intern exposed to networking opportunities everyday, I've been asked by a lot of people what I do and after a few times I realised that I kept talking about my current role at University i.e. my job. And that would be it. I would leave the impression that I do Communications, External Engagement and Marketing when I am SO much more.

Once I became more mindful of this, I started opening up conversations about my blog, my passion in the tech and diversity in tech community, I talked about my work with Code First Girls, my love for fitness, meditation and gratitude practice… That's what I do. Ever since doing this I've realised that I've started forming more meaningfu relationships with people who I want to be connected with because we are like minded etc 😛

With all that said, I do love my "day job" but it's not what defines me!